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DIGINNO network is sharing best practice examples from around BSR  in order to demonstrate how sharing knowledge and benefits between IT and industry sector will lead to innovation. 

ABB, a company with over 130 years of history, operating in more than a hundred countries, is targeting their operation into four globally managed areas – electrification, industrial automation, drives, and robotics and discrete automation supported by the digital platform ABB Ability. In Estonia ABB has operated since 1992 and has been dealing also with production from the very beginning.

Challenge problem
ABB needed a project management tool for planning and controlling the production process and supporting activities of the production company. The system controlling production should be able to communicate with other software used in the company, including accounting software and financial administration.

In the past, Excel had been used as a tool, but as the company grew, also the number of various Excel tables and databases increased, which were not mutually related and ultimately their administration became very complicated. A feature of major importance was price calculation (full cost model), but in the course of time, every salesperson had created their own table.

In result of cooperation between ABB and Uptime a special software was developed, which helps ABB to achieve sales and production targets.
Communication manager of ABB Estonia Sven Sommer says that the need for new IT solution, which would consolidate all processes and software options used, became obvious in 2003. „Analysis of the system and description of the needs of ABB followed, which ended with conclusion of cooperation contract with Uptime in 2005. Work was divided into three main stages, which were completed during the following years,“ tells Sommer.

In 2009, TAKU solution was integrated with SAP system (financial software), adopted by ABB in order to replace the former SCALA. In 2015 major improvements were made in the functionality of TAKU reports: all reports moved into the web browser, providing good overview of sales plans and forecasts as well as any problems occurred in the production.
After that, online information boards were added into production, which showed KPIs (key performance indicators) of production lines.

Last year the solution was adapted to the needs of production and maintenance activities: the new software was named TAKU. „This is a so-called tailor suit, which was developed, taking account of the needs of ABB production unit; a system, where projects are managed from the beginning to the end. The precision of production planning reached every production employee, whose level of skills was the basis, on which the system planned the course of the entire project,“ describes Sommer.

TAKU is also integrated with the financial software SAP used globally in ABB. „Most employees were very satisfied with the new software, because the programme was created based on their requests and needs,“ says Sven Sommer. „Today we can say that it is highly appreciated even by the people who have left us. In some cases, implementation of similar software has been initiated also in their new companies.“

The software provides assistance to production managers, project managers as well as sales staff, allowing to submit operative offers and providing constant overview of the current status of offers and orders. The system also provides a simplified overview of the current status of ongoing projects.

Furthermore, the common system enables to manage sales targets, projects and their budgets, and to send data directly into the accounting software used in ABB for drafting invoices and salary accounting. Based on the selected data, comprehensive reports can be prepared, and price calculation module ensures almost immediate knowledge of estimated time and price of the project.

Implementation process
„In spite of the size and global scope of ABB, a good cooperation model was found in the course of development, which is well suitable for a major corporation, while also ensuring certain flexibility – activities can be continuously reorganized,“ said technological manager of Uptime Raimo Seero.

Microsoft .NET, MS SQL and WinForms technologies were used for development, the required web servers were installed for displaying information and entering data, and for back-end solution or background support the application servers were installed, which are constantly connected with other software versions and accounting software used in the company.

Results and benefit
The special software enables to adopt the solution developed based on the business needs of ABB – no ready-made software solution would have enabled it in such extent. The solution has already helped the company to make production essentially more efficient and simple:

  1. Price calculation. Instead of five or more Excels, all data and calculations were consolidated into one system, which was easy to manage and control, including all operations related to changing of price calculation system by logs. Later, when ABB adopted SOX system, its implementation was easier for the factory, because the functionality was already parially included in TAKU.
  2. Fast and easy overview of the progress of the project, i.e. information of the current stage of the project and the amount of work done compared to the plan.
  3. Planning and monitoring of production. As all employees reported their hours through TAKU, there was good overview of the worktime. This functionality is another beside price calculation, which helped to improve the results of the company. Clear overview of resource planning is the first step toward the increase of efficiency.
  4. All processes became measurable. An objective was created for each part of a process, which was easy to monitor and display for everyone.

Text: Liivi Tamm, photo: ABB